Arrow season 4 premiere postmortem: 11 things to know from EPs Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season 4 premiere of Arrow. Read at your own risk!
All hail the Green Arrow!
Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) fulfilled his comic book destiny by suiting up as the Emerald Archer, but it came at a price.
With Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) looking to systematically destroy Star City with his mystical powers, Team Arrow asks Ollie to help fight the new big bad. Unaware that Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) has been helping them the whole time they’ve been away, Oliver puts his plans to propose on hold and returns a reluctant hero.
However, Diggle (David Ramsey) opposes Oliver’s return, still angry that his former friend put his wife and child in danger during his Ra’s al Ghul ruse — which is also likely why Diggle does not disclose his knowledge of Darhk’s shadowy organization H.I.V.E., which put the hit out on his brother all those years prior. But there were even bigger betrayals in the premiere with the reveal that Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne) is actually working with Darhk, who wants to know the identity of the Green Arrow.
This is just one of the challenges facing Oliver now that he’s decided to stay. The other? A flash-forward to six months later reveals Oliver standing over a grave, with The Flash’s Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) arriving to apologize for missing the funeral. As Oliver vows to kill “him” — likely Damien, but there could be a twist — viewers are left wondering who’s been put six feet under. Luckily, EW has some scoop from executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle:
1. Sadly, dead is dead. “It’s not a fake-out,” Guggenheim says of whomever is in that grave — though it sounds like the identity of said person is still up in the air. “We don’t necessarily know who it is right now,” Mericle says. “We’re still figuring the plan out for the season, but we wanted to have resonance. If it doesn’t mean something to the characters, it won’t mean anything to the audience either.” Despite viewers knowing that the Lazarus Pits will be used to bring Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) back to life at some point this season, Mericle says that this person really will stay dead. “We want to bring stakes back to the show,” she says. “We will be finding a way to handle the Lazarus Pit portion of season 3 in season 4 in a new, inventive way that I can’t reveal.”
2. Speaking of the Lazarus Pits, Thea (Willa Holland) is clearly suffering from the side effects as she acts recklessly while on patrol. “That’s something that’s going to come into play,” Guggenheim says. “We’re going to acknowledge very directly that, ‘Wait a second, she went into the Lazarus Pit back in episode 320. It’s been 6 months, so why is it only showing up now?’ We’ll be explaining why it’s rearing its ugly head now.”
3. Now that Oliver has decided to stay, Star City will accept the Green Arrow as their savior. “We’re hoping this will be a change in that they will embrace him, but it’s not going to be easy,” Mericle says. “It’s speaking to him trying to be more of an inspiration and less of the judge, jury and executioner that we’ve seen in the past.”
4. But facing off against big bad Damien Darhk will be a whole new challenge for Oliver. “The thing we said to [McDonough] was, ‘You’re not only evil, but you enjoy being evil.’ There’s a real glimmer in his eye whenever he’s putting the screws to somebody,” Guggenheim says. “In [past villains], they all thought they were doing the right thing. They had their own nobility. Not so much with Damien. Damien really could give a f— whether or not you think he’s noble. He has no conscience whatsoever, and he’s really enjoying having no conscience. It’s really freeing for him.” And with the city in crisis, “It’s easy for him to hide in plain sight,” Mericle adds.
5. Though it seems like Lance has gone over to the dark side by working with Damien, we’ll come to find that he didn’t do so willingly. “You’ll see later in the season that he did not know what he was necessarily signing up for,” Mericle says. “We’re going to play it really as a crisis for Lance in terms of why he chose to do it and what it means for him. He’s always been the moral center of the show and someone who has lorded his morality over Oliver. When all of this comes to a head, it’s going to be interesting to see how those two characters work it out.”
6. It won’t be easy for Lance to hide this secret from Laurel (Katie Cassidy). “She’s the full-fledged Black Canary, so she’s going to be a crucial part of the team going forward,” Mericle says. “The overarching theme of the season is about family — chosen family vs. blood family. She’s going to be dealing not just with Sara coming back, but also with her family on the team and also with her dad. When she discovers what happens in there premiere, there are going to be ramifications for her and for him as well.”
7. In flashbacks, we saw that Oliver tried his hand at being a vigilante in Coast City — did you catch that Green Lantern nod? — but Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) forcefully enlists his help by sending him back to the island Lian Yu, where he comes up against armed resistance. “He’s going to encounter who we hope is a love interest, a woman he’s going to fall in love with,” Mericle says. “And he’s also going to encounter a lot of magic and mysticism on the show, and that is going to inform what he’s dealing with in Star City in the present day with Damien Darhk.”
8. Diggle declined to share the truth about H.I.V.E. with Team Arrow for good reason. “It’s really tied to his inability to make any headway,” Mericle says. “It’s his brother’s murder he’s been trying to solve. The fact that he himself has been unable to get anywhere has made him feel slightly ashamed. He’s also run into so many dead ends. There hasn’t been anywhere to go until now. He will eventually talk about it, but up until this point, there hasn’t been a lot of reason to do so.” But if you’re expecting flashbacks to Diggle and Andy before he was assassinated, you may be waiting a while. “The first non-island flashback will happen in episode 8,” Guggenheim teases without revealing who will be featured in the outing. But we will definitely see Lance and Diggle working together on independent missions this season.
9. It won’t be easy for Diggle and Oliver to repair their relationship. “It’s something we want to explore seeing them at odds and really honoring what Oliver did at the end of season 3, which was pretty egregious,” Mericle says. “It’s going to take some time, but they will get back on the same track.” With that said, the dynamic on Team Arrow is going to be more democratic. “Oliver can’t walk away and then come back and expect that Dig, Laurel and Thea have not found a new dynamic and a new way of working,” Mericle says. “It puts Oliver in a different position vis à vis the team.”
10. In that same vein, Felicity and Oliver’s return may be the first crack in their relationship. “When Oliver hides the ring essentially, we’re also dramatizing the fact that he’s with Felicity, they’re together, but things are not the same as they were back in Ivytown,” Guggenheim says. “We wanted to get at that concept that their relationship had changed now that they’re back in Star City.” Though the producers played coy on whether we’ll learn more about Felicity’s father this season, Mericle reveals, “We’re going to be exploring Diggle and Felicity’s relationships outside the team.”
11. The rise of Ra’s al Ghul. Though we didn’t see him in the premiere, we will soon find out what Malcolm (John Barrowman) has been up to. “His arc for the season is really revolving around Thea and trying to be a good father, while also being very evil, badass Ra’s al Ghul,” Mericle says. “He’s going to be different with respect to Thea, we hope. We would like him to find a way to be a father. He doesn’t really know what that means as a character. That said, we do want to restore him to more of the season 1 Malcolm, who is going around messing up Oliver’s plans and anybody else he can cross paths with.” We’ll also get to see Nyssa’s (Katrina Law) reaction to the change in command. “She’s definitely not going to be on board with Malcolm as Ra’s,” Mericle adds.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.